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Posts Tagged ‘Marijuana’

Marc blogged the other day about the New York Times editorial board’s endorsement of repealing federal marijuana prohibition, just months after having rejected that step. Now, this isn’t quite the same as endorsing marijuana legalization – just returning it to the states – but it is a significant step nonetheless. Still, they are well behind the rest of the country. An absolute majority of Americans favor legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana more or less like alcohol. Liberal Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor.

Fivethirtyeight recently showed how out-of-step the New York Times is by comparing their position to that of representative Americans with a similar demographic profile. Money quote:

[P]eople with this demographic profile are somewhere around 25 or 30 percentage points more supportive of marijuana legalization than the average American. That implies that back in 2000, when only about 30 percent of Americans supported legalization, perhaps 55 or 60 percent of these people did. The margin of error on this estimate is fairly high — about 10 percent — but not enough to call into question that most people like those on the Times’ editorial board have privately supported legalization for a long time. The question is why it took them so long to take such a stance publicly.

The political class everywhere, regardless of left-right ideology, has been vastly more opposed to marijuana legalization than equivalent Americans. Here in New Hampshire, Democratic governor Maggie Hassan has not only opposed and promised to veto recreational marijuana legalization, she has also opposed and threatened to veto marijuana decriminalization and even allowing terminally ill patients to grow their own medical marijuana plants. Her spineless copartisans in the state senate have gone meekly along. And is anyone really surprised that government bootlicker David Brooks opposes legalization? It’s no accident that the only two states to legalize recreational marijuana so far have been states with the popular ballot initiative. It’s also no accident that medical marijuana started in states with the popular ballot initiative. The people have had to go around the controllers and neurotics in office.

Now the Brookings Institution has come out with a study of marijuana legalization in Colorado. Their quick synopsis? (more…)

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The Keene Activity Center (KAC) is a place where (mostly) young libertarians and anarchists in Keene, New Hampshire congregate to talk philosophy, plan activism (including civil disobedience), and generally relax and socialize. Apparently the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been trying very, very hard to infiltrate the KAC, judging from this account of the arrest of one of the club’s members, Rich Paul, on marijuana charges.

Paul is going on trial for petty marijuana distribution offenses pursuant to testimony by an undercover FBI informant. It looks as if the trial is on state charges, but what’s interesting and disturbing is the interest the federal government has taken in the case. FBI agent Phillip Christiana apparently tried to pressure Paul into wearing a wire into the KAC and luring people into pot transactions, offering him immunity from prosecution in exchange. Follow the link to read more about how the FBI agent tried to coerce and trick Paul into waiving his right to counsel.

Here are some questions the FBI ought to answer, that is, if they were in any way accountable to those of us who are paying their salaries under duress:

  1. Why is the FBI taking such a keen interest in these small-scale marijuana offenses?
  2. Is the FBI targeting Keene libertarians, anarchists, and “voluntaryists” for their political views?
  3. Does the FBI countenance or authorize the deceptive and coercive interrogation tactics reportedly used by this agent?

I’m hoping Paul finds himself a good lawyer and negotiates a good plea bargain. His trial starts April 16th, though, so time is short. The local activists seem to be aiming for jury nullification. They shouldn’t bet the house on that. The prosecutor will paint Paul as a big-time drug dealer and scary anarchist.

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An interesting new poll from Public Policy Polling shows strong support for marijuana reform in New Hampshire:

For legalization (taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, with licensed stores): 53%. Opposed: 37%.
For decriminalization (replacing criminal penalties for possession of less than an ounce with a fine): 62%. Opposed: 27%.
For medical marijuana (allowing seriously or terminally ill patients to use marijuana if their doctors recommend it): 68%. Opposed: 26%.

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The New Hampshire House, dominated 3-to-1 by Republicans, has just voted by an approximately 2-to-1 majority to kill a bill that would have repealed same-sex marriage and reinstate civil unions. Along with passage of marijuana decriminalization (by a single vote), this vote helps to demonstrate the increasingly libertarian, live-and-let-live character of the New Hampshire GOP.(*)

Meanwhile, the NH Senate just passed a bill to give businesses tax credits for funding private and out-of-district public school scholarships.

(*) I am of two minds on same-sex marriage. I support it on a personal level, as I do not see any good reason for government or anyone else to discriminate against same-sex couples. At the same time, I recognize that some people have deeply held religious objections to same-sex unions and object to having their tax dollars pay for government endorsement of these unions. For that reason, I favor getting government out of marriage licensing altogether.

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What will happen if California legalizes marijuana, if Proposition 19 passes as expected? The Economist runs the numbers on legalization’s effects on Mexican drug cartels’ bottom lines.

Regardless of how the proposition turns out, Americans’ changing views on the appropriate legal status of the drug are to be welcomed. Let us hope that politicians are paying attention.

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Journalists and libgressives frequently try to paint Sarah Palin as a social conservative.  But this easy (and expedient) characterization doesn’t quite capture her and never has.  So her recent comments on marijuana policy reported in Politico might surprise some of them, and it certainly complicates the paint by numbers approach to politics that they take:

“If we’re talking about pot, I’m not for the legalization of pot,” Palin said. “I think that would just encourage our young people to think that it was OK to go ahead and use it.”

“However, I think we need to prioritize our law enforcement efforts,” Palin added. “If somebody’s gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody any harm, then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems we have in society.”   

Palin then urged law enforcement to “not concentrate on such a, relatively speaking, minimal problem we have in the country.” 

As for the substance of what Palin said, I think she is half-right here.  Essentially turning a blind eye to marijuana use is better than ineffectively spending scarce government resources on relatively harmless behavior all in the name of prosecuting a failing drug war.  Moreover, it is a good sign when Republican leaders “go to China” on this type of issue (especially when they are supposedly ”social conservatives”). 

But two caveats.  First, if we are worried about what our actions teach kids, we should be concerned about the message we send them when we say, ”Sure, pot is against the law but, hey, we know it really shouldn’t be so we aren’t going to prosecute violations of that law.”  Doing this runs the danger of habituating citizens to ignore the law (in the same way the 55 MPH speed limit on interstates did). 

Second, Palin – like most people – has a confused understanding of the necessary relationship between politics and ethics.  Clearly the law need not make every morally or physically harmful activity illegal.  So why would legalizing drugs necessarily teach kids it is ok to use drugs?  Do we really think lying or promiscuity (or smoking cigarettes or drinking booze, for that matter) should be illegal simply because we could make an argument for why they are unethical behaviors? 

And is the law really the crucial teacher that some claim it is?  If so, are governments telling us it is morally acceptable to get drunk, sleep around, lie, and smoke em if you got em because these actions are legal?  Do we think murder is wrong because it is illegal (and it has taught us so through the ages) or because we understand that it contradicts the natural law (or our religious tenets), is inconsistent with human flourishing, and violates an individual’s fundamental right to life? 

So, let’s punish or forbid behaviors that have direct and significant negative externalities.  And leave teaching our kids ethics to us parents – we’re sure to do a better job anyway.

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